A name is more than a name when you can't remember it
OPINION: The world is a fantastic place. I mean that literally. But it would be just a little bit more fantastic if we could all just call each other buddy.
Or mate, friend, fella, chap or even 'hey you there' and in doing so do away with first names altogether. Get rid of them for good.
I'm seeking to promote this sort of overtly familiar interaction because I cannot remember names. Well, I can remember them. I just can't remember them at the right time, which makes all the difference.
When I see people on the street I can remember their name for the five seconds it takes our paths to cross. Yet at that point of crossing when communication is expected, I have forgotten their name. I will only to remember it when we are five seconds apart, which for all intents and purposes may as well be a world away.
There is a term for this sort of memory deficiency. It is called being an idiot.
Being an idiot is particularly debilitating if you live in a small provincial city into which you were born. This is my situation and, I believe, that of some hundreds of thousands of others.
As a name idiot I am acutely aware that at any time of day at any supermarket I have access to there are three people I went to school with, one girl (now a woman) I kissed at a Blue Light Rage in either 1988 or 1989, two friends of my parents and at least one blood relative.
You can make similar generalisations about any footpath in the central business district and it is not unheard of for the entire class of Oakura Primary 1984 to arrive at the same time to join the Saturday morning Mitre 10 sausage sizzle queue.
Every time I step out the door, therefore, there exists a better than even chance I am going to humiliate myself and someone else I have known for more than half of my life because I cannot recall their name, which people generally take as an extraordinary insult. I know I do.
For years I have made half hearted attempts to be a better namer because being a name idiot is not a terrible amount of fun.
For a while, when I was introduced to someone I would say their name straight away and then take every opportunity to use it again and again as we talked.
It worked at instantly burning a name onto my brain but it worked better at affirming to those people that I was either deranged or the type of person who was so frighteningly desperate for friendship they might turn up in the bushes outside their house at 1am on a Friday night.
The approach actually didn't work anyway as when I saw that person again I would only have a vague suspicion of the letter their name started with.
I have developed other techniques to get around this name handicap and I don't think I am alone in having a standing order with my wife that if I don't introduce her to someone within four seconds of meeting them she must introduce herself.
The hopeful outcome of this is the person will then say their own name after which I will enthusiastically use it six times in the next two minutes to demonstrate just how well I had always remembered it.
It is my absolute conviction that no one is fooled by this charade but it is face saving conspiracy I am sure most of us appreciate as essential to pleasant interactions.
This would all be unnecessary if, as suggested, we did away with names altogether except I think the cost of doing that might be ruinous to our sense of self ,which could in turn have disastrous consequences for individual culpability - the very basis of our peaceful society.
So my suggestion is we go by our defining body part or characteristic. Someone with a huge nose could be Nosey. A massive head could be Heady and a person with a persistent rank odour could be Stinky.
This is not an original idea. It comes to me by way of the Smurfs - a small Mushroom living community of 99 blue men and 1 blue woman, which is not weird at all even if it really, really seems that way.
They have a clumsy Smurf who is called, obviously, Clumsy. A grouchy Smurf called Grouchy and a brainy Smurf called Brainy. It makes remembering their names exceedingly easy.
The only problem I can see with this is you would have no control over what your name would be and so mine, despite all attempts to rectify it as a personal deficiency, could very well be Idiot.